Incoming Arkansas Senate leader says ‘communication’ will be his strength
Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, will lead the Arkansas State Senate in 2023, but he’s already getting a head start on the foundation that will guide his term as President Pro Tempore.
“What I’ve committed to the members to do is just communication with members… So I’m going to communicate, communicate, communicate,” he said. “I think it’s a real simple process and it is building capital with colleagues. You build capital with time, right? Letting people be heard, making sure they not only are heard, but they feel like they are heard. And so I’m just going to be spending time with all the current members and the members that we foresee coming in the legislature. I’m going to build a lot of capital with them and with that, we will, I think we’ll start to gel.”
Hester, who appeared on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics, was elected to lead the Senate in the 94th General Assembly, which convenes in January 2023. It will be the first time in eight years that a new governor will be working with the legislative branch. Hester, a Republican, expects the odds-on-favorite Sarah Huckabee Sanders to be his co-equal branch of government counterpart.
“We will have a new governor and her name will be Sarah Huckabee Sanders. And my relationship is going to be fantastic because I’m going to be intentional about having a great relationship with her,” Hester said. “Sarah reached out to me yesterday and said, ‘Hey, you know, congratulations.’ And she said, ‘Would you be willing to make time to start meeting with me on a monthly basis to talk about policy?’ should things go well for her. And, man, that was music to my ears, and I think music to all my colleagues’ ears.”
The state is on track for another year of budget surplus, possibly $600 million. Hester said managing the state’s budget will be his highest legislative priority.
“What we know right now is the state of Arkansas has a lot of money. And we have a lot of money because the feds we’re printing a lot of money and Arkansas is just doing really well,” Hester said. “We’ve budgeted, been fiscally responsible – and I will say that’s due to State Sen. Jonathan Dismang’s leadership with Sen. Jimmy Hickey – they really held the line on the budget. The people of Arkansas need to know that we’ve got a lot of money, but when there’s a lot of money, there’s a lot of problems. People want to spend it, people want to save it, people want to cut taxes, some want to give it back. So I think talking about the money.”
You can watch Hester’s full interview in the video below.